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Excerpt from The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Opposite of Everyone

by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson X
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2016, 352 pages

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I wasn't sure if he meant me, or Daphne, or the girl his eyes were on. The very young one, with magenta hair and baby cheeks. The one on her knees.

The picture changed again. He was staring at it, at himself, trying to see a way around all that this was going to cost him.

"You absolute bitch," Skopes repeated, his voice still toneless, but now his face was washed with red.

I kept my own face blank, perused the papers in front of me. "I'm not familiar with a fraternity called You Absolute Bitch. Would that be Psi Alpha Beta?"

Skopes stood up. His forehead was beginning to look sweaty. I could see him measuring how these photos might play to a much larger audience. To his Rotary Club. His church. His father. The neglected daughters he believed he loved, just as he believed that he was a good person. These pictures told a truer story, and for this moment, he was the one tasting helplessness. He was flayed open, all his inner ugliness exposed to the air.

"Give her what she wants," he said. Anderson tried to speak, but Skopes cut him off. "Just give her what she wants."

My favorite words.

Skopes thought he was saying them to his lawyer, or perhaps even to Daphne. He was wrong. Those words belonged to me.

After today, it would devolve into paperwork. Nick and I would do a long billable dance with Jeremy Anderson, slicing up the fat financial pie. That was nice and all, but my meat was in this moment. This perfect, unrepeated moment when Skopes was exposed. When all the stories that he told himself were washed away, and he saw himself, true.

Now I paused to set the dish of tuna on the floor. Henry wolfed at it. I grabbed the phone to text the Brit, and there, sticking out of the stack of mail, was the corner of a thick creamcolored envelope. I pulled it out, and saw my name and my return address engraved in burnt brown. Kai's PO box in Texas was written in my spider-scrawl. It was the very one I'd tossed into my outbox in the last hour of Valentine's Day. Now it had three red words in my mother's handwriting, slanting across the front.

Return to Sender.

All thought stopped. All breath. My victory went bang out of my head. All my plans for the night went, too. My cat and my own hungers— gone. I couldn't even hear the music.

Some time passed. Maybe half a minute, maybe a few seconds. I couldn't tell.

This close, I could hear Henry making a low, overloud grumble in his chest that he felt as only a vibration. I heard him smacking up tuna. I turned the envelope over and saw the flap was sealed with Scotch tape. I hadn't sent it that way.

My hands felt swollen and clumsy. They trembled so violently that I could barely get it open.

Inside, I found my check. She'd written VOID in the same red pen across the front.

Finally, a different answer. But why now? I'd sent a check every month for almost sixteen years, repeating its endless question. I'd sent tiny checks while I worked my way through junior college up in Indiana. One week, I sent five dollars, and it wiped out my account. They got a little bigger when I got a full ride to Notre Dame and then Emory Law, larger still after I graduated and established my career. One hundred and eighty-some- odd checks had made their way from me to Kai over the years, one by one, each asking, Are we even?

Her answer was to cash them. Without fail, even though my mother moved often and on the fly. Once or twice a year I'd get a change of address card, impersonal and cheery, shifting her mail from one PO box to a new one in another city. She always made sure to collect my check and cash it, though.

The voided check trembled in my fingers. I turned it in my hands, and saw more words on the back in my mother's left- leaning hand:

Excerpted from The Opposite of Everyone by Tom Jackson. Copyright © 2016 by Tom Jackson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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